Meet the Planners

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By Marilyn Kennedy Melia
CTW Features

It’s your big day, but that it has to be your big job.
Couples (and their parents) busy with their own work and personal schedules are turning to consultants to do some or all of the wedding planning for them.

Before you can save time with a planner, couples and their families must spend time finding a suitable consultant. Here, some help on hiring help:

Menu of Services

A full service package usually means that planner’s touch is in every detail – the food, color scheme, venue, invitations and more, says David Wood, president of the Association of Bridal Consultants.

Often, adds Wood, the planner has a hand in what can’t be seen – namely, navigating the emotional land mines.

“I have a worksheet that I make available to the bride and groom and their parents and any other family members they indicate,” says Crista Tharp, a wedding planner in Kokomo, Ind. “It’s easier to express your opinions on paper, whether it’s religious and cultural wishes or financial issues.”

While full-service is the most comprehensive (and costliest) it’s also possible to hire a planner for “a la carte” offerings.

One of the most common is “day of” wedding coordination, whereby the planner ensures everything on the wedding day is in place at the right time. Some hotels and large venues may offer similar “day of” services as part of their wedding package.

“We offer a bridal attendant who meets the couple as soon as they arrive and will do things like get them through photos and make sure the gifts are sent to their room,” says Carroll Tavella, director of sales for the Nicotra’s Ballroom at the Hilton Garden Inn New York-Staten Island.

Expertise and Chemistry

Since no state requires licensing or training for bridal consultants, asking about experience and education is key, contends Wood, whose organization offers a six-month training course.

Word-of-mouth is a good way to find a good planner, as well as calling a planner’s references. “Don’t just call clients; also call vendors to see what they think,” Tharp advises.

And, there must be a match between planners and clients emotionally, adds Wood.

Fees and Customs

In different areas of the country, venues, caterers and other parties operate differently.

Glenna Tooman, a planner in Boise, Idaho, says that in her mostly rural area, some venues require that the customer be responsible for table and chair set-up.

As a result, she offers event decorating where she will ensure that the set up and dismantling is taken care of, including the decorations. Her fee might be just a few hundred dollars for this service. In other areas, and if the client wants a comprehensive roster of services, the fee could run several thousand dollars or more, says Wood.

No matter what level of service, Wood and other planners say clients should look for a detailed contract on exactly what will be provided — even down to details as how many phone calls or email exchanges the consultant will provide.

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Tags: planning, wedding, consultants